As this year’s Autism Awareness Month comes to a close, I wanted to bring attention to the impact labels and names can have on people with special needs. If you check the definition of autism at https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/autism, you’ll see: “a mental condition that is marked by an absorption with the self, including difficulty relating to and communicating with other people and difficulty understanding abstract concepts. A person who has autism is described as ’autistic’.” The website adds in smaller print that “the word autism is taken directly from the Greek root auto, meaning “self.”
This description is not so much wrong as horribly incomplete, in addition to being a wild generalization. And—let’s face it—this definition also implies a selfish person (“absorption with the self”) who is unable and/or unwilling to relate to others. But many people with autism DESPERATELY want love and friendship.
My daughter is one of those young adults on the spectrum who has begun to speak out about what feels right to her, in terms of names and labels. Click this link to see her most recent interview on The Stir.
She also shared her opinions on the autism label in parent.com earlier this week at:
“What It’s Like to Be the Twin with Autism”
Maybe in the years to come–if not by next April–we will find better language to describe the increasing minority of people diagnosed with autism. Until then, I’m happy that my daughter and others like her are being offered opportunities to add their voices to the conversation.